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25 Jun, 2020 06:50

Local businesses sue Seattle for ‘enabling’ chaotic CHAZ encampment that led to ‘rampant violence’

Local businesses sue Seattle for ‘enabling’ chaotic CHAZ encampment that led to ‘rampant violence’

More than a dozen businesses are taking the city of Seattle to court over its handling of the ‘autonomous’ police-free zone that sprung up two weeks ago, arguing that the city has failed to maintain basic public safety.

The plaintiffs claim that the city government looked the other way as protesters took over a six-block neighborhood earlier this month, after police abandoned their East Precinct station.

The area was dubbed the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), but was later re-branded as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP). The unpoliced encampment was soon plagued by crime, vandalism and violence. A series of shootings over a 48-hour period earlier this week led to one fatality.

Mayor Jenny Durkan originally called the protest a “peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief,” but has since vowed to restore order. However, her change of heart appears to be too little, too late for the businesses that have lawyered-up.

"Rather than seeking to restore order and protect residents and property owners within CHOP, the City instead chose to actively endorse, enable and participate in the occupation of CHOP,” the suit alleges.

Filed on Wednesday, the legal complaint states that “violence, vandalism, excessive noise, public drug use, and other crimes are rampant” in the neighborhood, and that the city’s reluctance to intervene has resulted in the “elimination of basic public safety” in the area.

Although they support the anti-racist, anti-police brutality message of the protesters, the plaintiffs said that the encampment – which has been guarded by barricades, and sometimes even armed guards – has blocked public access to their businesses.

The lawsuit is seeking damages for lost business, property damage and deprivation of their rights as property owners.

Also on rt.com CHAZ protesters reinforce barricades & form human chains as Seattle mayor vows to dismantle anarchic encampment (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Although the encampment has shrunk in size, remaining protesters have been preparing for a showdown with the city. The group has reinforced barricades around the East Precinct, vowing that they won’t leave voluntarily. Durkan announced earlier this week that police would return to the neighborhood, but has stated that they will do so peacefully.

A spokesperson from the mayor’s office said that city officials were trying to negotiate with protesters in hopes of finding a “path forward” which “keeps people safe.”

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